Kahindo Mateene is producing a line of clutches using scraps from her Modahnik line of women's apparel.

Kahindo Mateene is producing a line of clutches using scraps from her Modahnik line of women’s apparel. Photo courtesy of Kahindo Mateene.

Kahindo’s smile is infectious. You can’t help but want to be around her. She doesn’t know the meaning of no. She has the energy of the Energizer Bunny on steroids, the passion to move mountains, and the kind of charisma that will make you stop what you’re doing – even when you’re on deadline – to help her achieve her goals.

Kahindo Mateene is the owner and designer behind Modahnik, a women’s contemporary apparel brand that incorporates vibrant colors and bold prints as its signature style. She’s now set her sights on launching a line of clutches with MamAfrica as a way to use the scraps from her apparel line while providing much-needed employment to women in The Democratic Republic of Congo. You can be part of the project by making a contribution to her Kickstarter campaign.

She and I first met eight years ago when her business was still just an idea in her head. A native of The Democratic Republic of Congo, she wanted to create a line that showed the world what beautiful African design looks like as well as provide a platform for her to give back to the women in her home country. As someone who loves African design and its bold, unapologetic styles, I couldn’t wait to see her designs come to life.

Travel is an important source of inspiration for Kahindo. She began traveling when she was five years old and as a child she lived in over six different African countries. She admits that she loves to immerse herself in the local culture whenever she visits a new destination and tries to live like a local through eating local food, experiencing local culture and learning all about the history and people.

I know travel was a big source of inspiration for me when I had launched my fair trade importing business (which I have subsequently sold) and for many others including my friend Stacey Edgar who launched Global Girlfriend, another fair trade business. It feeds our souls.

“As a designer, being transported outside of your mind and being able to just take in everything through touch, smell and sight is so gratifying,” she says. “Inspiration comes from everywhere, be it sitting outside a cafe and people watching or visiting museums and looking at architecture. Being exposed to a different culture is inspiration within itself.”

She knows not everyone in her home country has the same privileges she’s been afforded which is why her partnership with MamAfrica is important to her. “I am so passionate about this collaboration with MamAfrica because ultimately I know how blessed and lucky I am to live the life I live, and know there are so many Congolese women back home who are not as fortunate,” she says. “If I can use my craft to make a difference in even one woman’s life, I would have made a difference. This project is about fashion Made in USA benefiting Congolese women through creating economic opportunities, fair trade jobs, healing arts programs and empowering the Mamas. It’s about ethical consumerism and products with a purpose.”

When she’s not designing or traveling, Kahindo loves to spend time with her friends in her hometown of Chicago often over a great meal. Although Chicago doesn’t have any restaurants that serve traditional Congolese food, when she craves home cooking, she heads to one of her favorite Chicago restaurants: Ethiopian Diamond. “Ethiopian Food is not really similar to Congolese food, apart from the spice factor; however, I lived in Ethiopia as a kid, so it is as close to home cooking as I can get,” she says.